We usually think that having a lot of belly fat can lead to type 2 diabetes. However, a new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine says this might not always be true.
It seems that differences in our genes could lead some people to store fat around their waist without increasing their risk of diabetes.
This surprising finding gives us a better understanding of how obesity and diabetes are related. It could also help doctors give more personalized treatments to their patients.
For example, doctors might tell some patients to lose weight if their genes increase their risk of diabetes. But for patients with protective gene variants, weight loss might not be as important.
Understanding Healthy Obesity
There is a concept called metabolically healthy obesity. People with this condition are overweight but do not have the health problems usually associated with obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Researcher Mete Civelek and his team found a genetic link that might explain why this happens in some people.
“With more knowledge about different types of obesity, we can give better treatments to people who are at high risk,” says Civelek.
As we learn more about how gene variations affect health, we can make sure patients get the best treatments for their specific needs.
Understanding the Role of Gene Variants
Gene variants can make some people more likely to store fat in their abdomen.
This is usually thought to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of health problems that can lead to diabetes, stroke, and other serious conditions.
However, these same gene variants might also protect these people from type 2 diabetes.
Doctors often use waist and hip measurements to determine if a patient has metabolic syndrome.
But Civelek’s research suggests that, for some patients, this might not be enough. In the future, doctors might need to check a patient’s genes to give the best health advice.
Uncovering the Role of Gene Variants in Health
Yonathan Aberra, the lead author of the study, says, “We found that among the hundreds of regions in our genomes which increase our propensity to accumulate excess fat in our abdomens, there are five which have an unexpected role.
These five regions decrease an individual’s risk for type 2 diabetes.”
Civelek’s research doesn’t just provide surprising findings. It also gives researchers new tools to study gene variations. These tools can help develop new treatments for metabolic syndrome and other conditions.
“We need to expand our studies to include more women and people from different genetic backgrounds,” says Civelek.
“This way, we can identify even more genes related to metabolically healthy obesity. We hope to use our findings to identify a possible target for new treatments.”
The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal eLife, which is free to read.
The study was supported by several institutions, including the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association. The researchers do not have any financial interest in the work.
If you care about blood sugar, please read studies about why blood sugar is high in the morning, and how to cook sweet potatoes without increasing blood sugar.
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The study was published in eLife.
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